August 12, 2022

Britney Greiner was sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia Thursday after a judge ruled that she had smuggled drugs into the country with criminal intent.

Just hours after the sentencing, his fellow WNBA wrestlers had to wear a match.

But before her Phoenix Mercury team made hints against the Connecticut Sun Thursday night, the two teams met in central court for a moment of silence in honor of the unjustly imprisoned Olympian 4,500 miles away. The players filled their faces with tears, and stood arms crossed for 42 seconds – in honor of Griner’s jersey number – under the dim lights at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

As chants of “bring her home” sounded in Uncasville, the athletes hugged each other, wiped their eyes, and did their best to get ready to play basketball. But as Mercury’s primary goalkeeper Skylar Diggins-Smith said after her team lost 64-77: “Nobody even wants to play today.”

“How are you supposed to approach the match, approach the field with a clear mind?” Diggins showed Smith as tears welled up in her eyes. “And the whole group crying before the game? Because you’re trying to honor it, you’re trying to get out of it and you’re still playing hard for it.”

During her pre-match press conference with the media, Phoenix’s head coach Vanessa Nygaard explained that together, in the visitors’ locker room, her team was broadcasting the Russian proceedings as their 6-foot-9 teammate received her referee and referee. Moments later, Mercury ran to the field to shoot.

Skylar Diggins Smith.

Skylar Diggins Smith.

Kate Friese/NBAE via Getty Images

Nygaard said it was “really difficult” for the team to focus on anything other than Greiner’s ordeal. “None of our tough days are still as tough as BJ’s,” she added.

“It’s obviously devastating,” Mercury winger Diamond Deshilds said after the match.

It’s just heavy, you all,” said Diggins-Smith, adding, “She’s our sister; this isn’t a random Jane from the street. It’s not something we politicize. He’s human, and this is our real-life friend and sister. So imagine if Your real life friend or real sister is here.”

Fans hold banners in support of Britney Grenier.

Fans gather to bring Griner home.

Phoenix Mercury / Handout via Reuters

“And I don’t expect everyone to care, but we really do,” she added. “And we get out here and we’re still supposed to play this damn game.”

Fans can watch Diggins-Smith’s and DeShields post-match press conference below:

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